I grew up Christian, and I don’t say that with the usual giant caveat that most people associate with that statement. Have you ever noticed that when most people say “I grew up Christian” there is an implied ‘and I hated it’? I didn’t. Growing up, my faith was an integral part of who I was and informed a great number of decisions in my life. I went to church almost every week and actually liked it most of the time. I think this is primarily because the church my family was a part of was full of fantastic people that worked hard to create a community that was welcoming.
As I got older, the sense of home I had within church dwindled. I could never find a community that made me feel as comfortable as my previous church had. I even went to a few churches that flat out made me feel unwelcome. One church I went to all but excommunicated me over a miscommunication about a bicycle. (It’s a long story that’s not actually very good, so I’ll spare you the details. Just know that I had been attending this church off and on for over a year, and was treated like garbage over something I had no real control over). I couldn’t find meaningful connections to people, which had always been my most favorite part about being a part of a congregation.
So, I fell out of love with church. I still thought of myself as a Christian, but my theology at that point was pretty different compared to most main-stream protestant denominations. When I was in college, I did a lot of reading about Deism and I really connected to the idea of God as a creator. As an artist, I related to a deity that was invested in the best interests of their creations. I also took classes taught by one of the best professors I had in my entire undergraduate education about Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. I did a lot of studying. I did a lot of learning. I continued to try local churches to see if I could find a new congregation to call home, but I could never find one. I could never fully reconcile the idea of Jesus being divine on my own, and I couldn’t find a church or pastor patient enough to deal with my barrage of questions on the subject. At a certain point it always came down to ‘you just have to believe’ and that was never good enough for me.
I eventually arrived at a place where I wasn’t interested in making my faith a priority. I had other things to worry about and my faith wasn’t bringing me down per se, but it wasn’t lifting me up the way it used to. I put it on the back burner. It was there, simmering, but I had other things to work out that felt much more pressing. (Like, I dunno… my gender?) In that time, I’ve watched my spouse undergo an intense conversion to Judaism. It’s been confusing and exciting to be a part of. Over the last few years, it’s been like watching him step into the proper version of himself. A second skin that was always there, but he never knew how to wear it properly. The most gratifying thing about it all has been watching him thrive and be happy.
Only in the last several months have I had the energy to even think about my own faith again. I’m trying to let myself open up old and vulnerable wounds to understand something new about myself. So, I’m doing what I always do when I’m not sure how to proceed- I’m reading, I’m learning, and I’m trying really hard to let myself ask questions without having answers. A few weeks ago, my spouse and I started an Introduction to Judaism course at our local synagogue. (Which has been me furiously taking notes, trying to learn anything and everything that I can, and my spouse trying really hard not to fall asleep. Thanks for bearing with me, dear!) It feels like a step in the right direction. Who knows where it’ll take me, but I’m not looking for answers yet, just continuing to ask questions.